Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Nail care, nail problems, and the use of nails in playing the classical guitar.
hugoperales
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Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by hugoperales » Sun Jul 08, 2018 3:37 am

Hello.

Allegedly, the length of the fingernails affects tone and speed.

That doesnt makes any sense to me in the physical aspect. What difference is there if you have short nails or longer nails? In both cases the contact, travel and release point is the same nail. In my opinion, if you polish and shape your nails properly, there won't be any difference in tone, nor in speed. The only difference I can percieve is that short nails break less often, which is benefitial. Hence short nails are superior than long nails.

Please prove me wrong.

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guitarrista
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by guitarrista » Sun Jul 08, 2018 5:57 am

Longer nails (versus short on the same hand) will, if both scenarios start from the flesh/nail juncture:
1) result in a steeper nail ramp, so at the point of release, the string is deeper into the guitar body than with a shorter nail/shallower ramp (or else you've changed your finger trajectory into a different arc). This generally causes a different tone;
2) result in a feeling of greater string resistance from having to fight over a taller obstacle at every stroke ("taller" nail that the string has to "jump over" in order to be released). This generally causes a slowdown in the maximum alternation speed one is capable of.
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petermc61
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by petermc61 » Sun Jul 08, 2018 7:26 am

Longer nails will only have nail contact to string, no flesh as well (which I prefer). Also, for me, my a nail is thinner and more flexible - if it gets a bit too long it sounds ‘thin’. Hence I need to keep it shorter to have it more rigid.

ronjazz
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by ronjazz » Sun Jul 08, 2018 1:54 pm

They only need to be long enough to reach the strings.
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Adam
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by Adam » Sun Jul 08, 2018 2:34 pm

I keep them just slightly above the flesh line. I contact the string first with my fingertip, then catch it with the nail. I don't like having long nails in "real life" or playing with long nails. I've seen players with really long nails, and I just don't see the upside. Thin sound, break easily...

Nick Cutroneo
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Sun Jul 08, 2018 2:48 pm

hugoperales wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 3:37 am
Hello.

Allegedly, the length of the fingernails affects tone and speed.

That doesnt makes any sense to me in the physical aspect. What difference is there if you have short nails or longer nails? In both cases the contact, travel and release point is the same nail.
The traditional and most common concept of the contact point (nail placement) is at the point where the nail and the flesh meet. This spot creates a small cradling of the string. The longer your nail, the more the string has to go through the nail at this point - thus effecting speed.

As for tone... Tone for me is more about nail shape, maintenance, and proper technique. However, length does play a role. A longer nail has the string in contact and being used by the nail more often. Thus you can potentially get a thinner sound. However, I'd say nail length is more subjective in this regard. And often times longer nails are used as a way of masking poor nail placement.
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Jack Douglas
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by Jack Douglas » Sun Jul 08, 2018 3:10 pm

Simple. Long nails clack! Short nails don’t and are much easier to get a rich, round tone.
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Nick Cutroneo
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Sun Jul 08, 2018 3:23 pm

Jack Douglas wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 3:10 pm
Simple. Long nails clack! Short nails don’t and are much easier to get a rich, round tone.
"Nail Clack" isn't because of Long Nails, but rather placing the nail (a hard surface) on a vibrating string. This happens easier with long nails because there's more of the nail that can come to touch the string. In actually, nail noise is avoided by allowing the flesh of the finger to touch the string first before the placement of the nail on the string.
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AndreiKrylov

Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by AndreiKrylov » Sun Jul 08, 2018 3:27 pm

hugoperales wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 3:37 am
Hello.

Allegedly, the length of the fingernails affects tone and speed.

That doesnt makes any sense to me in the physical aspect. What difference is there if you have short nails or longer nails? In both cases the contact, travel and release point is the same nail. In my opinion, if you polish and shape your nails properly, there won't be any difference in tone, nor in speed. The only difference I can percieve is that short nails break less often, which is benefitial. Hence short nails are superior than long nails.

Please prove me wrong.
I think it is very subjective.
People are so different...
In physical and mental aspects...
In age and conditions.
In individual techniques.
In results.

To bring any kind of objectivity in such discussion people have to provide videos and audio of their playing... and volumes of work they did while using their particular approach.

I use very short nails.
My work is easy to find to hear and see.
Volume? - immense... :)

guit-box
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by guit-box » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:48 pm

hugoperales wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 3:37 am
Hello.

Allegedly, the length of the fingernails affects tone and speed.

That doesnt makes any sense to me in the physical aspect. What difference is there if you have short nails or longer nails? In both cases the contact, travel and release point is the same nail. In my opinion, if you polish and shape your nails properly, there won't be any difference in tone, nor in speed. The only difference I can percieve is that short nails break less often, which is benefitial. Hence short nails are superior than long nails.

Please prove me wrong.
The most important question is: Are there examples of world class guitarists with both long/short nails who get good tone (subjective) and can play fast (less subjective)? It seems that most players I've seen use nails that are even with the flesh or slightly beyond the flesh by 1 mm or so. The length of the m finger seems to allow for a slightly shorter nail for me and the shortness of the i finger for me requires a slightly longer nail. But I have seen some great players with long nails, I don't know if they have PDL speed scales, but they get the classical guitar repertoire done, so it works for them. I've heard players say the straightness of the ramp (Barrueco quote I believe) has a positive affect on how the string glides over the nail with ease allowing for better/faster plucking. I have better luck lately with a more U-shaped nail than a straight ramp and I like the gripping feel of a longer nail but they're still in the 1-3mm past the tip range.. It would be an interesting to find players with long nails who can play fast and post videos.
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guit-box
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by guit-box » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:58 pm

Check out Grisha's nails at 1:10 min. He has almost no nails. I'd have to conclude that speed is about the player's finger strength and coordination developed over years of practice combined with an anatomy that for whatever reason allows them to move the fingers fast. It's about skill and practicing the right moves for years, no doubt, but also some of us just will never have the ability to play this fast no matter what we do. Nails are likely not that connected to speed as we might think, but if they are too long or badly shaped and badly polished they might be inhibiting speed.

An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

hugoperales
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by hugoperales » Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:58 am

guitarrista wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 5:57 am
Longer nails (versus short on the same hand) will, if both scenarios start from the flesh/nail juncture:
1) result in a steeper nail ramp, so at the point of release, the string is deeper into the guitar body than with a shorter nail/shallower ramp (or else you've changed your finger trajectory into a different arc). This generally causes a different tone;
Alright, that makes perfect sense. Tough, If you are hitting the string softly, like when doing a pianisimo, the string wont move.
Nick Cutroneo wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 2:48 pm
A longer nail has the string in contact and being used by the nail more often. Thus you can potentially get a thinner sound. However, I'd say nail length is more subjective in this regard.
After reading guitarrista post I dont think its subjective. With longer nails, at the point of release the string is deeper into the guitar body. I've just tested this with my guitar, and even a miniscule 1mm difference changes the tone.
AndreiKrylov wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 3:27 pm
I think it is very subjective.
People are so different...
In physical and mental aspects...
In age and conditions.
In individual techniques.
In results.
I disagree. After reading the other posts, I think just like playing on a different length of the string (sul tasto, ponticello) changes the sound in a specific way ("darker" towards tasto, "brighter" towards ponticello), fingernail length also changes the sound in a specific way.

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rojarosguitar
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by rojarosguitar » Mon Jul 09, 2018 7:14 am

hugoperales wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 3:37 am
Hello.

Allegedly, the length of the fingernails affects tone and speed.

That doesnt makes any sense to me in the physical aspect. What difference is there if you have short nails or longer nails? In both cases the contact, travel and release point is the same nail. In my opinion, if you polish and shape your nails properly, there won't be any difference in tone, nor in speed. The only difference I can percieve is that short nails break less often, which is benefitial. Hence short nails are superior than long nails.

Please prove me wrong.
Even given the same length slightest differences in form may already or quality of polishing change the way how you articulate, the micro-timing of the string release and the sound, let alone if you have a significantly longer or shorter nails (or none). It's nothing to speculate about, just experiment a bit by yourself. Also, at least for me, with quite long nails I can get a problem with string release.
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guit-box
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by guit-box » Mon Jul 09, 2018 1:04 pm

Judicael Perroy has very long nails that probably protrude 3-5 mm from the tip of his fingers. There's a long ramp with a shape that's like a rounded-V. He's not playing fast in this video, but I think he's capable of playing the virtuoso classical repertoire.

An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

Nick Cutroneo
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Mon Jul 09, 2018 1:32 pm

hugoperales wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:58 am
Nick Cutroneo wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 2:48 pm
A longer nail has the string in contact and being used by the nail more often. Thus you can potentially get a thinner sound. However, I'd say nail length is more subjective in this regard.
After reading guitarrista post I dont think its subjective. With longer nails, at the point of release the string is deeper into the guitar body. I've just tested this with my guitar, and even a miniscule 1mm difference changes the tone.
Relative to the player, yes it is subjective. The length of the finger nail depends on many things. How "squishy" and bulbous your finger tip is. Also how far back your nail grows out of your nail bed (unattached part). The fact is, there's no magic length for everyone, but rather the length that works for you. And part of that is also what you want to hear on the guitar. What a "good tone" is to you as the player.
Nick Cutroneo - Classical Guitarist, performer/teacher/suzuki instructor

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